Along the usual route of my daily walk, my neighbor, Joe, an elderly Filipino, is often sitting in a chair just outside his gate, having a late afternoon coffee. I usually stop for a moment to chat. Good chance to practice some Bisaya (the local language here in Davao).
A few days ago Joe mentioned that he and his wife were going to Manila. So, in my usual “talk like Tarzan” version of pre-kindergarten Bisaya, I asked if he was flying there.
The Bisaya word for flying is “lupad”. (I learned this from the quite excellent Bisaya course offered here on this very web site.)
So I asked, “molupad ka ba sa didto?”, which, according to my calculations, meant “are you going to fly there?”
Whereupon everyone present (anywhere you go here, there are always other people around) burst into peals of hysterical laughter.
I was puzzled at first. It wasn’t a totally dumb question. It’s true we’re a long way from Manila (1,500 km or so), but there are ways to get to Manila other than flying. There are ships, buses, you can even drive there in a car (takes three days, and several ferry crossings between islands, but people do it).
Anyway, after the laughter died down, I got the explanation: ‘lupad’ is what birds do. Maybe bugs also ‘lupad’, I’m not too sure about that one. But I am reliably assured that people do not ‘lupad’. People ‘mag-plane’. Or they could ‘sakay sa aeroplano’ (ride in an airplane).
As most Bisaya learners quickly figure out, “mag” is a kind of all-purpose prefix that means, well, whatever someone wants it to mean. You can put “mag” in front of just about anything. “Mag-X” basically translates to “read my mind and figure out what I might think of doing with an X, and do that.”
For example, I heard my wife ask her mother “mag-gulay ka ba?” Gulay means vegetable. Turns out what she meant was “are you cooking the vegetable soup?” So in this case, “mag” meant “make soup out of”.
However, not too surprisingly, “mag-dyaket” does not mean “make soup out of a jacket,” it means “wear a jacket”. Of course, “mag-guitar” does not mean “wear a guitar,” although perhaps it could, in the right context, if your wife were mad enough, say, but usually it means “play a guitar”. You get the idea.
Except that you probably don’t, if you aren’t a native speaker. The other day, I was trying to figure out an article in the SuperBalita, a local newspaper which is mostly in Bisaya, and I was doing fine until several words into the first sentence when I ran into the word “mag-inahan”. “Inahan” is the Bisaya word for “mother”. So, probably “mag-inahan” must mean something to do with mothering, right? Except, no — turns out “mag-inahan” isn’t even a verb, it means “a mother and daughter”. I’m not sure if it has to be a human mother and daughter.
I will contemplate this further while I mag-SMB.